My son, a guitar plunker raised on huge doses of Rockpile and Joe Ely, tipped me to the Magpies. He saw them at Hayes Carll's Stingaree Festival about a year ago and pronounced them the hardest-rocking band of the whole soiree. Tooling over to MySpace, it only took a brief introduction to the band's work to convince me that he might be onto something. Not only does the band rock, it has smart lyrics and, with keyboardist/accordionist Justin Gorski in the mix, a sophisticated sense of arrangement. Songs like "Picture Me in a Love Song" couple the lyrical prowess and depth of Jon Dee Graham with musical accompaniment that ranges from the 12-string Rickenbacker twang of early Byrds to full-force Springsteen.
Sung with full Son Volt angst, lyrics like "had a dream you pawned off all the things I had bought you, and all the money I had I spent on women taught to make a livin' breakin' hearts" lead into a catchy chorus hook of "the waiting ain't working out right." Scratchy tunes like "Full Force Gale" sound like the Black Keys jamming with the Gourds, and the result is some glorious big-beat alt-country. See this young Cleveland outfit before they become somebody else's darlings.
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With the Umbrellaman, 9 p.m. tonight at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, 713-529-9899 or www.continentalclub.com/Houston.html.